by Roberto Cremonini, SVP, Business Development

Birds of a feather flock together. It’s an old proverb but one that may explain why so many of us at GivingData attended Kari Aanestad’s and Laura Solomon’s excellent session at last month’s PEAK 2021 conference entitled #FixTheForm: An International Movement to Advance Equity through Grantmaking Technology

Besides being aligned with the issues Kari and Laura highlighted, we were gratified to discover that GivingData’s Grantee Portal already addresses nearly all of the top changes recommended by nonprofits in a survey conducted last November by GrantAdvisor.

On the heels of PEAK 2021, we spoke with Kari, as well as Chantal Forster, Executive Director of Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG), a partner on the #FixTheForm initiative. We discussed our shared interest in making it easy for grantmakers to create, modify, and deploy forms that address the issues identified in the survey. 

It was only natural then for GivingData to proudly join the #FixTheForm Community.

Working collaboratively with funders and nonprofits to improve tools and practices in the sector is in GivingData’s DNA. From our earliest days, we have engaged foundations and their grantees in conversations to make sure that our solutions support their aspirations and eliminate common pain points. 

Our Grantee Portal, for example, was designed and built with the help of forward-thinking foundations that wanted to radically improve the application and reporting experience for their grantees. The result is a portal that addresses many of the technology-related changes identified in GrantAdvisor’s survey.

Here’s how.

1. Allowing applicants to see the full application ahead of time and printing or saving it as a PDF. Even before opening GivingData’s form, applicants can click on the View/Print Application link to create a printable version of the full form or save it as a PDF. This makes it easy to share and to include or exclude their answers when printing the form.

Grantees need to see the requirements of a grant application before beginning their submission.

2. Autosaving. This is a simple but essential feature. It ensures that data is never lost as applicants move in and out of the application and between sections, allowing them to easily pick up where they left off. One of our favorite anecdotes about the value of this feature came from an applicant who was filling out a form using his smartphone while moving between villages in Western Africa, where Internet connectivity was slow. After hitting submit, he emailed the funder to let them know how grateful he was that, despite the intermittent connectivity, he could complete the application over the course of multiple days without losing any work.

3. Removing Word/Character limits and saving formatting in text boxes. Funders can encourage applicants not to exceed a given number of words or characters, but the form does not truncate an applicant’s submission if it exceeds the suggested limit. As important, GivingData supports Rich Text Formatting (RTF) in text boxes to allow applicants to use font treatments, e.g., bold, italics, bulleted, and numbered lists. It even supports cut and paste without losing formatting when pasting from a website.

Standard WYSIWYG formatting options and flexible field settings make adding grant application content easier. Source: Why we need to #FixTheForm - By Kari Aanestad January 15th, 2021 GrantAdvisor Blog.

4. Allowing applicants and funders to “chat” in the form. This is by far one of grantees’ and funders’ most valued features. No need to call a phone number or send an email without knowing if someone will pick up or reply. With GivingData, applicants can interact with a funder to ask questions or provide and receive feedback directly in the form.

Using this feature, any foundation staff involved with an application are automatically notified via an alert, email, or both when an applicant submits a comment or question. A link to the form enables staff to reply inline. The same is true for applicants when they receive a message from the funder. All comments, questions, and responses are automatically saved and can be referenced at any time even after the form is submitted.

Quick and easy communication between grantees and funders is key to improving the application process.

These examples underscore the work that GivingData has done to meet the application needs presented by grantees and foundations so far, but what other improvements still need to be made? How is your application process working or not working? What more can be done to #FixTheForm?

You can help answer these questions by submitting your grant application to the 100 Forms in 100 Days Campaign by July 23, 2021. Instructions for downloading your grant application from GivingData as a pdf can be found here. TAG will analyze submissions and publish a report in the fall. 

The #FixTheForm movement has important momentum now that can result in positive change for us all. Your participation is critical. Welcome to the ReFormers Community!